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Googling the Trail of a Serial Rapist 204

Posted by timothy
from the can-you-hear-me-now? dept.
theodp writes "Innovative Interactivity has a behind-the-scenes look at the Washington Post's On the Trail of a Serial Rapist series. Information Designer Kat Downs details her experience designing and building the impressive interface for the series, including the use of Google Maps to track the rapist. Wary, perhaps, that it might encourage vigilantism, the WaPo stopped short of allowing readers to add their own input to the maps and urged anyone with additional information to contact the police."
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Googling the Trail of a Serial Rapist

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  • Some black guy... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by will.perdikakis (1074743) * on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:27PM (#31944204)
    He was 21ish and 5'7" in 1997 and 6'1" and in his 40s now?

    I understand the DNA links, but the other cases?
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      We should put out an APB on all local masters of disguise.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Anything can happen in America! Why Michael Jackson was born a poor black boy [everyonelo...candal.com] and died a very rich woman - or close to it. [flickr.com]
      • by Shakrai (717556)

        He had to change into a white woman. Everyone knows that the police frame rich black men for crimes they didn't commit [wikipedia.org].

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I'm not a fan of Jackson's music, just not my thing, but have a little sympathy:

        1) The burns he suffered during that pepsi commercial left him nearly as disfigured as darth vader - he had to wear wigs and get plastic surgery on his face to attain a semblance of normalcy.

        2) He's not white out of choice - he had vitiligo - the trademark white glove was actually used to cover up the first signs of it that could not be concealed by regular clothing. The whole thing about him sleeping in an oxygen chamber was h

    • by aepervius (535155) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:38PM (#31944428)
      The problem is that at the best of the case , the witness are unreliable. In a stressful situation like rape this is much worst. So 5'7'' or 6'1'' could be the same guy. Really. Now tehre are still problem with DNA matching, as it seems that collision over a huge population can happen (so you can't try to match against a whole database), so I would not trust that too, unless it is to ground a case when the suspect is shown to also have been at the place.
      • by westlake (615356)

        Really. Now tehre are still problem with DNA matching, as it seems that collision over a huge population can happen

        But do you really have a "huge" population of suspects?

        The age and physical condition of the suspect has to make sense. You have to place him plausibly near the scene of the crime. Not stationed in Afghanistan.

      • by thesandtiger (819476) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @11:55PM (#31950724)

        I'm 5'7" - a little on the tall side, I guess, for a woman my age.

        I have had co-workers - people I have worked alongside for *years* guess my height at anywhere between 5'4" and 6'. As for age, I'm 38 but I have people who're older than me guessing I'm in my early to mid-20's, while people who are in their mid-20's guess I'm in my early to mid 40's.

        I've had people tell me they were "shocked" to hear me describe myself as brunette because they thought my hair was black, or blonde, depending on the time of year. And people have also said I look either Italian (read: dusky) or Irish (read: freckles and pale) again depending on the time of year.

        Given that people who work with me 20-40 hours/week have such a hard time describing me, I am actually impressed that the height and age-range of the attacker in question is so narrow.

    • by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@g m a il.com> on Thursday April 22, 2010 @04:06PM (#31944900) Homepage Journal

      He wasn't measured at 5'7" and then measured at 6'1" later. The victim's statement described the attacker as 5'7" in one case, and another victim many years later described the attacker as 6'1".

      If you only look at cases with DNA evidence, two cases right next to each other in 1997 have a victim describing the attacker as 5'6", and the next case has a victim describing the attacker as 5'10". DNA says this is the same person.

      It would seem that either the DNA evidence is completely flawed, or the victim's guesses at the attacker's height is flawed.

      • Well she was being raped at the time, so perhaps we can give her a pass on not having an exact recollection of his height and other physical attributes.

      • by westlake (615356)

        He wasn't measured at 5'7" and then measured at 6'1" later. The victim's statement described the attacker as 5'7" in one case, and another victim many years later described the attacker as 6'1

        Try judging someone's height without a fixed point of reference.

        A doorway, a street sign, something of that sort.

        Not easy.

        Do you know your own height within an inch?

        Could you bear the thought that your attacker was significantly shorter or more slightly built than you are?

        Again, not easily, I think.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by feepness (543479)

      He was 21ish and 5'7" in 1997 and 6'1" and in his 40s now?

      Time flies when you're having fun.

  • I'll take (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:27PM (#31944214)

    Therapist for $400

  • Vigilantism (Score:4, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:33PM (#31944326)

    Tracking people in this fashion is unethical, even if it is a rapist. Leave it to the authorities -- this is vigilantism, nothing more. And that's not something that we can tolerate in an information-saturated society. Anytime a person is tracked electronically like this by someone with a personal agenda, it's wrong. There should not be exceptions, because the moment we allow that line to be crossed, we damn all of us to the potential to have our privacy invaded under false pretext.

    You want to help? Volunteer your services to a responsible authority like the local police. Work with them and follow their ethical guidelines. Believe me, they want citizens to come to them and the system functions best when done under professional and ethical oversight by a disinterested party. This kind of behavior, however well-intentioned, harms those efforts and undermines the entire system of justice.

    • Re:Vigilantism (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:38PM (#31944426) Journal
      If somebody has maliciously assaulted you, tracking them down is not unethical. If somebody has made a habit of maliciously assaulting people at leisure, tracking them down is a service to mankind.
      • Re:Vigilantism (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:47PM (#31944574)

        And if we allow random individuals to each make their own judgments about who deserves to be hunted down, then we've reverted to anarchy. That's the trade-off of living in a modern civilization: you agree to give up your right to randomly hunt down whoever you think deserves it, in return for being assured that nobody else can randomly hunt you down to satisfy a grudge, either. The police exist for exactly this reason, and the occasional (and even occasionally systemic) abuses aside, they do a reasonable job of it.

        • Re:Vigilantism (Score:5, Informative)

          by Shakrai (717556) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @04:32PM (#31945302) Journal

          in return for being assured that nobody else can randomly hunt you down to satisfy a grudge, either.

          Except that you are given no such assurance. The only assurance you are given is that the police will try to track down the person who hunted you down after the fact. The police in the United States have no legal duty to protect you. The Supreme Court has said as much [nytimes.com].

          The police exist for exactly this reason, and the occasional (and even occasionally systemic) abuses aside, they do a reasonable job of it.

          Tell that to all the rape/murder victims out there. The sad reality of the situation is that you are the one who is ultimately responsible for your own well being. The police sure as hell aren't.

      • Re:Vigilantism (Score:5, Informative)

        by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:47PM (#31944578)

        If somebody has maliciously assaulted you, tracking them down is not unethical. If somebody has made a habit of maliciously assaulting people at leisure, tracking them down is a service to mankind.

        Speaking as someone who was sexually assaulted, yes, tracking the person responsible down is unethical. In my case, they filed it under miscellany and never interviewed him, and less than a month later, three more cases turned up and the guy skipped state. The police never followed up, and so he's very likely still out there. I did the responsible thing and contacted the authorities once I got out of the hospital. Granted, I did it while staring at the floor, stuttering, and being held by a friend, but I did do it.

        Can I say I'd do it the same way if it happened again? No, not really. It was a traumatic experience and I won't sit here and say if given half a chance I wouldn't have returned the favor at the time. But I don't think two wrongs make a right, and feeding this guy to a woodchipper because the police wouldn't do their job, while maybe emotionally fulfilling, isn't right. So I have to stand by what I said -- vigilantism is not a public service. A public service would be my day in court, along with the others who that son of a bitch hurt. So I do understand the motivations behind such behavior on a very personal level. I don't agree with it.

        • Re:Vigilantism (Score:4, Insightful)

          by pclminion (145572) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @04:04PM (#31944884)
          How is determining a person's location equivalent to vigilantism?
        • by Hatta (162192)

          Speaking as someone who was sexually assaulted, yes, tracking the person responsible down is unethical.

          Why? You explained your circumstances, but I don't understand your reasoning. If anything, it's the police who ignore you who are unethical. It's not unethical to do their job when they won't.

          • Re:Vigilantism (Score:5, Insightful)

            by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @04:29PM (#31945260)

            Why? You explained your circumstances, but I don't understand your reasoning. If anything, it's the police who ignore you who are unethical. It's not unethical to do their job when they won't.

            I can't (nor should I be allowed to) assume police powers because the person or group that has them doesn't want to excercise them. That's lunacy. If I want to track this guy down privately, using lawful channels, and the police are willing and able to prosecute -- it's a win for everyone. But if they don't, my only lawful recourse is to go to the media (weren't interested), protest (one person with a sign didn't exactly make an impact), write letters (got form letter replies and courteous brush-offs), and try to help the other victims to find him and build a case against him (only found one of the three I knew about, and that person didn't want to rehash an old wound).

            Don't kid yourself -- I tried. I did more than this website did, and with less fanfare. But I never crossed the line of going public. The risk of someone being misidentified and harmed by that isn't one I am willing to take, then, now, or ever. I want him as bad as anyone else who's ever been raped. That doesn't give me the right to endanger innocent lives to correct that injustice.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Hatta (162192)

              But if they don't, my only lawful recourse is to go to the media (weren't interested), protest (one person with a sign didn't exactly make an impact), write letters (got form letter replies and courteous brush-offs), and try to help the other victims to find him and build a case against him (only found one of the three I knew about, and that person didn't want to rehash an old wound).

              Just because it's not lawful doesn't mean it's unethical. When the law itself (or those enforcing it) is unethical, the only

              • Re:Vigilantism (Score:4, Interesting)

                by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @04:41PM (#31945460)

                Just because it's not lawful doesn't mean it's unethical. When the law itself (or those enforcing it) is unethical, the only ethical action may be to break the law.

                I don't believe the police were acting in an unethical fashion, I simply think they have limited resources.

                • Re:Vigilantism (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by Hatta (162192) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @04:55PM (#31945652) Journal

                  As long as there's a single pot smoker in jail, "limited resources" has no pull whatsoever.

                  • It's a lot easier to prosecute someone who has a joint on their person than to find forensic evidence of a rape. Most rapists wear condoms, the drugs used quickly metabolize, and unlike pot smokers, victims of sexual assault are often blamed for "provoking" the defendant into it. So dollar for dollar, drug charges are a lot easier to get convictions on. That's why there's so many pot smokers in jail, and so few rapists, even though more women claim to have been sexually assaulted during their lives than smo

                  • by elucido (870205) on Friday April 23, 2010 @12:24AM (#31950944)

                    As long as there's a single pot smoker in jail, "limited resources" has no pull whatsoever.

                    The police spend a greater portion of their money solving drug crimes and paying off drug informants than they do trying to catch rapists. If they want to catch rapists where are the informants? Somehow they have an endless supply of informants who will rat you out for smoking a joint but nobody when it's time to catch a real criminal?

                    Typical.

        • But I don't think two wrongs make a right, and feeding this guy to a woodchipper because the police wouldn't do their job, while maybe emotionally fulfilling, isn't right.

          Isn't it though? The laws and justice system evolved originally to stop family feuds turning bloody and escalating, so justice would remain in the hands of the king, as in the code of Hammurabi. If the justice system fails badly, clearly, and obviously, along with the enforcement system, I personally would have no moral qualms about ensuring the punishment is exacted myself, by whatever means neccessary, up to and including a sharpened piece of metal. But only after exhausting all other possible avenues.

          A

          • Re:Vigilantism (Score:5, Insightful)

            by corbettw (214229) <corbettw@y a h o o . c om> on Thursday April 22, 2010 @04:34PM (#31945326) Journal

            And what happens when a DA declines to prosecute you and the guy's family decides his fate was undeserved and comes looking for you for vengeance? Where does it end?

            Part of living in a civilized society is giving up your "right" to vengeance and letting the authorities take care of the problem. If they don't, the solution is to get better authorities, not to take the law into your own hands.

            • And what happens when a DA declines to prosecute you and the guy's family decides his fate was undeserved and comes looking for you for vengeance? Where does it end?

              We had a particularly egregious case here in Ireland where a lonely and blameless old farmer (Nally) out living by himself in the countryside snapped after being terrorised once too often by criminals, so he shot the man ("frog" Ward, a real piece of work whose rap sheet included threatening Guards with a slash hook) and walked after him beating him about the head and face as he tried to make his escape, and I quote "he bled like a badger", went back into his house, reloaded, came out again and shot him dea

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Shakrai (717556)

                so that householders aren't required to run from their premises in the case of intrusion

                Move to the United States. In virtually all American states (even the left-leaning ones like New York or California) you aren't expected nor required to flee from your home in the face of a violent intrusion into it. I find it absolutely despicable that there exists systems of government that require people to flee from their homes in the face of violence.

                Break into an occupied home in the United States and you have a decent chance of being shot. Perhaps this explains why the United States has a lower r

                • find it absolutely despicable that there exists systems of government that require people to flee from their homes in the face of violence.

                  As mentioned, the law has been changed. It was based on UK law originally I believe.

                • by eth1 (94901)

                  Hell, here in TX, even if there isn't anyone home, you're liable to be shot by a *neighbor*. It's happened, and as I recall, the grand jury no-billed the homicide as justified.

                  Personally (even though I'm one of those that carries a firearm on my person almost all the time), I think the above situation is really stretching it, though.

                  • by Shakrai (717556)

                    I heard about that case, assuming you are referring to this one [www.ctv.ca]. Maybe it's just my blue state attitude but I think that guy overreacted. He knew that his neighbors weren't home. All that was at stake was property. Property that was likely insured.

                    I would not be willing to take a human life over property. I would intervene without hesitation if one of my neighbors was being murdered/raped/kidnapped/etc. But for property? No way. Even if I could get away with it in the legal sense I wouldn't do it.

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by ozbird (127571)

                  Break into an occupied home in the United States and you have a decent chance of being shot. Perhaps this explains why the United States has a lower rate of "hot" burglaries (burglaries where the home is occupied) than many other countries?

                  Nice cherry-picking. Compare homicide, armed robbery etc. statistics with other countries and you'll find that things aren't so rosy. (No, you can't pick Somalia.)

        • by syousef (465911)

          So you do have a personal agenda.

          First of all I'm sorry you were assaulted. No one deserves that. I mean that sincerely.

          On the other hand I'm appalled that you would think it is wrong to track this guy down, but that it is not more wrong that he's out there doing this to other women.

          Sometimes there is no high moral ground. It's a question of the lesser of two evils, and the landscape is treacherously filled with slippery slopes. Sometimes there is no right - just two wrongs and one of them less so. I think

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Shakrai (717556)

        If somebody has made a habit of maliciously assaulting people at leisure, tracking them down is a service to mankind.

        Putting them out of our collective misery would be an even bigger service to mankind but some people frown on such notions.....

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Putting them out of our collective misery would be an even bigger service to mankind but some people frown on such notions.....

          I don't, but I can't defend my own rights by sacrificing somebody else's. He's entitled to the same legal and ethical protections I am, whatever his past or present behaviors. There's a simple and time-honored tradition this society has of dealing with malefactors -- imprisonment. Besides, I know what happens to rapists in jail. I think throwing the predator in with the other predators would sate my thirst for vengance.

          • by Shakrai (717556)

            but I can't defend my own rights by sacrificing somebody else's

            Your attacker forfeited his rights when he decided to force himself upon you. In all 50 states you would have been well within your rights to shoot him dead on the spot.

            He's entitled to the same legal and ethical protections I am

            That's why we have due process of law.

            There's a simple and time-honored tradition this society has of dealing with malefactors -- imprisonment.

            If you support the death penalty as I do then I would argue that it should apply to rapists as well as murderers. If you don't then we won't see eye to eye on this -- but I've never understood why murder is regarded as a capital offense but rape is not.

            • by cayenne8 (626475)
              "If you support the death penalty as I do then I would argue that it should apply to rapists as well as murderers. If you don't then we won't see eye to eye on this -- but I've never understood why murder is regarded as a capital offense but rape is not."

              Err, because the result of a murder, is a dead victim. End result of a rape is a damaged victim, but still breathing, and with us on planet earth above room temperature.

              Given the choice, I'd guess most people would choose to live to see another day.

              • by Shakrai (717556)

                Err, because the result of a murder, is a dead victim

                So what? The Federal Government makes it a capital offense to engage in espionage or treason. Do you take issue with that? If that's ok, then why not rape? Why not kidnapping?

                The victims of those crimes (and third-party bystanders in many US jurisdictions) are entitled to respond with deadly force in the United States. As a society we've decided that those crimes are so egregious that their victims should be allowed to kill their attackers in the course of defending themselves. I honestly don't see w

                • by cayenne8 (626475)
                  "The victims of those crimes (and third-party bystanders in many US jurisdictions) are entitled to respond with deadly force in the United States. "

                  Really?

                  I wasn't aware we had widespread 'good samaritan' laws? For what crimes and what jurisdictions is a reaction of deadly force required?

                  Is espionage/treason really punishable by death? I thought Ames [wikipedia.org] was still alive?

                  Oops..just read that article...it is punishable by death, but they apparently can plea it down.

                  I dunno..I'm guessing that these charges w

                  • by Shakrai (717556)

                    For what crimes and what jurisdictions is a reaction of deadly force required?

                    In New York State you can respond to rape, robbery, kidnapping or the use of deadly force with deadly force. The exact law reads as follows, NYS Penal Law Section 35.15:

                    A person may not use deadly physical force upon another person under circumstances specified in subdivision one unless:
                    (a) He reasonably believes that such other person is using or about to use deadly physical force. Even in such case, however, the actor may not use deadly physical force if he knows that he can with complete safety as to

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              I've never understood why murder is regarded as a capital offense but rape is not

              For one thing, this provides a little incentive to leave the rape victim alive. If I'm committing a capital offense already, why not eliminate any witnesses?

              You would have to do your own survey on whether rape victims would prefer to have been murdered also. Personally, I would bet on "no".

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            A person, continuing to violate laws and harm people doesn't have rights. They don't have a right to trial, to remain silent or anything else.

            Rights are only established once they've been apprehended and in safe custody. However, someone shooting people from a tower has no rights, because they don't care about other people's rights.

            This is the problem with our society today, we are too emasculated to actually state what is obvious, for fear of offending those that need to be offended.

            You know those High Spe

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by element-o.p. (939033)
              I'm undoing a lot of moderation to post this, but I just have to. Here goes...

              A person, continuing to violate laws and harm people doesn't have rights. They don't have a right to trial, to remain silent or anything else.

              Agreed. Unfortunately, only God (if you accept His existence) and the perpetrator knows who that is. Everyone else has a best guess. It might be a really, really good guess, but ultimately, that's all it is.

              Rights don't exist to protect the scumbag who hurt someone else. Rights exist to make sure that we don't punish the innocent for things they didn't do. Right not to be forced to testify against yourself? Yeah...Engla

        • Putting them out of our collective misery would be an even bigger service to mankind but some people frown on such notions

          Yes, that would be people who believe societies function best when people aren't working solely in their own interests or who throw away the law whenever they disagree with it. Would you have a problem with my saying "I think anyone who would take it on themselves to put others out of 'our' misery should be tracked down and shot in the head?"

          As a father, I worry each day about my
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Shakrai (717556)

            But, as an intelligent, rational person I'm also aware that pedophilia is a disease, one that takes control of the person

            That's bullshit rationalization. Human beings are one of the few (the only?) animals with the higher brain functions to override our primal instincts. I don't ascribe to the theory that someone is forced to molest children. That person made a choice and if caught will have to live with the consequences.

            The problem is, that's not how you build a JUSTICE system, it's how you build a REVENGE system.

            Why do you assume I was advocating vigilantism? I'd actually like to see rape made into a capital offense, as it used to be. Then the state could put these lowlifes out of our collective misery after ac

            • I don't ascribe to the theory that someone is forced to molest children.

              That's nice. Fortunately, reality doesn't care what you think. Although, "forced" is probably the wrong phrase. "Overcome with urges that can't be ignored" would be a better one. But, I'm sure you don't see the difference. Do you also think paraplegics are just choosing not to walk?

              Why do you assume I was advocating vigilantism?

              Because in a thread about the pros/cons of vigilantism, you spoke up about putting people out o
              • by Shakrai (717556)

                That's nice. Fortunately, reality doesn't care what you think. Although, "forced" is probably the wrong phrase. "Overcome with urges that can't be ignored" would be a better one. But, I'm sure you don't see the difference. Do you also think paraplegics are just choosing not to walk?

                Wow, nice straw man you've got there. Physical disability != lack of self control.

                I'd say we're not at the point where we're mature enough as a society to start making decisions like that.

                Well, we could always require every female who goes out alone to carry a loaded firearm. That would probably put a dent in the number of would-be rapists. I suspect you might have a problem with that though. Are you one of those that thinks the rape victim is morally superior to the woman with the dead would-be rapist at her feet?

    • by Shakrai (717556)

      Anytime a person is tracked electronically like this by someone with a personal agenda, it's wrong

      So being tracked electronically for other purposes is ok? It's wrong to track down a serial rapist but it's acceptable for Choicepoint to track my every living move? It's acceptable for my credit card company to build profiles of my purchases and sell them to marketing companies but not acceptable for a citizen to track a convicted criminal?

      The things we choose to get outraged about....

      • So being tracked electronically for other purposes is ok? It's wrong to track down a serial rapist but it's acceptable for Choicepoint to track my every living move? It's acceptable for my credit card company to build profiles of my purchases and sell them to marketing companies but not acceptable for a citizen to track a convicted criminal?

        You're bringing unrelated material into the discussion. This is about answering whether it's okay for a private citizen or group of citizens, to excercise police-like surveillance over another individual, or group of individuals. The examples you outline have different ethical and legal implications, as well as motivations.

        • by Shakrai (717556)

          You're bringing unrelated material into the discussion

          *shrug*, you are the one who said that tracking people "in this fashion" for a "personal agenda" is wrong.

          This is about answering whether it's okay for a private citizen or group of citizens, to excercise police-like surveillance over another individual, or group of individuals.

          Yes. The information is all in the public sphere. All this site is doing is collecting it and providing a centralized place to distribute it. I presume you've heard of the first amendment?

          • Yes. The information is all in the public sphere. All this site is doing is collecting it and providing a centralized place to distribute it. I presume you've heard of the first amendment?

            Yes. Have you heard of the reasonable restrictions of that amendment? For example, inciting a riot or encouraging criminal activity is not covered.

            • Re:Vigilantism (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Shakrai (717556) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @04:38PM (#31945416) Journal

              For example, inciting a riot or encouraging criminal activity is not covered.

              I fail to see how repeating information that is already in the public domain constitutes incitement to riot.

              "John Q. Rapist moved into the neighborhood at 123 Main St. Keep your kids away from him" <--- free speech
              "John Q. Rapist moved into the neighborhood at 123 Main St. Let's go burn his house down!" <--- not free speech

    • > Leave it to the authorities

      Yeah, they're doing such a great job...

    • Re:Vigilantism (Score:4, Informative)

      by Moridineas (213502) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:58PM (#31944782) Journal

      Really? Are you advocating a criminal-victim right of confidentiality or something? As a criminal, I have the right to privacy of my crimes?

      I get the core of what you're saying--vigilantism can be bad--but I see absolutely nothing wrong in this case. The police (and other shows like America's Most Wanted) regularly share far more information about ongoing cases than is on this webpage. It's a neat little mashup sure, but that's all. Who knows if more victims will come forward after recognizing something in the description, or a friend/acquaintance of the rapist realizes something is going on, etc?

    • Re:Vigilantism (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:59PM (#31944816)

      The only tracking that they're doing is tracking where the crimes took place. Go look at the site, all that's there is a timeline, with a Google map, street view, and text blurb for each attack. It isn't like they've followed the guy on the subway and found out where he lives, they're simply organizing all the data that was doubtlessly available from other sources into a single, easy to follow graphical representation.

      • The only tracking that they're doing is tracking where the crimes took place. Go look at the site, all that's there is a timeline, with a Google map, street view, and text blurb for each attack. It isn't like they've followed the guy on the subway and found out where he lives, they're simply organizing all the data that was doubtlessly available from other sources into a single, easy to follow graphical representation.

        Which is still a form of surveillance. Again -- I stand by what I said earlier: If these people want to help, do it with the authorities, not for them. And if they do nothing, call the media. There are ethical channels that can be followed to obtain justice which do not include going public. The moment you put information like this into the hands of the public and tag it "rapist", you're coming dangerously close to inciting people to vigilantism. At the very least, you're enabling it.

        The intent is good. The

        • by Shakrai (717556)

          Which is still a form of surveillance.

          Surveillance [google.com] is the careful watching of someone, especially by an organization such as the police or the army

          The moment you put information like this into the hands of the public and tag it "rapist", you're coming dangerously close to inciting people to vigilantism.

          So, such information should be withheld from the public because we can't trust that they won't abuse it?

          it's entirely possible that a private person with access to this information could misidentify the criminal and harm an innocent person.

          If someone does that they'll be held accountable for it. That's why we have a criminal justice system.

        • > And if they do nothing, call the media.

          This being /., I guess I shouldn't even ask if you RTFA. Here, try this:

          It's probably the largest crime to be tracked via Google Maps so far, and, if successful, it will act as a blueprint for future three-way collaborations between law enforcers, the fourth estate, and the public.

          It is HOSTED by the media. The data was PROVIDED by "the authorities". What was your complaint again?

    • Re:Vigilantism (Score:4, Informative)

      by guruevi (827432) <evi@smo k i n g c ube.be> on Thursday April 22, 2010 @04:04PM (#31944886) Homepage

      The authorities have no duty to protect anyone: http://www.firearmsandliberty.com/kasler-protection.html [firearmsandliberty.com]

      The best thing to do about crime is to stop it yourself whenever you see it going on. If you have the nuts for it, you can become a bounty hunter and hunt people down yourself for a living.

    • by AndersOSU (873247)

      It would be unethical to track an individual we suspected of doing something wrong. It's not unethical to track "the rapist." We're not assuming anyone's guilt, we're tabulating a list of crimes and evidence related to the crimes.

    • http://michiganmessenger.com/36610/arrest-of-most-wanted-sex-offender-raises-policy-questions [michiganmessenger.com]

      in a nutshell: lansing michigan got a $900,000 federal grant to monitor sex offenders. but a journalist, spending five minutes using google and facebook, found an offender working at a daycare center... an offender on the Michigan State Police's most-wanted fugitives list! and someone the lansing police describe as "always one step ahead of us"... since 2007. the fucking pedo is posting on facebook with his real nam

      • the only justice that exists in this particular case is vigilante justice. and i agree with you: vigilante justice sucks. however, vigilante justice is better than NO justice

        That wasn't vigilante justice -- that was a responsible media figure doing some good old fashioned journalism, finding the guy, and then turning that information over to the police, and once he was captured, published the details in a lawful fashion. I have no idea how that $900k was spent, or if it even exists, and if it's in your state maybe you should look into that. For all we know it could have been to train officers do to exactly what this guy did. But this is entirely hypothetical without a citation,

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      If the rapist feels his privacy has been violated I'm sure they'll happily take down the site if he just tells one of the police officers that fact.

      More seriously, which part of that site do you possibly think is an invasion of anyone's privacy?

      Do you also think that newspapers should not report on criminal cases at all?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by megamerican (1073936)

      There is nothing wrong with being vigilant. It has often been said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

      In many places around the country the police force is either being used to collect fines to make their budget and/or their force is being cut. In fact, an Ohio county Judge [google.com] has urged its citizens to buy guns, be vigilant and set up community watches.

      Judge Alfred Mackey of Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court advised residents Friday to be vigilant and arm themselves because the number of deputies has been cut about in half because of a tight budget. He also urged neighbors to organize anti-crime block watch groups.

      Sure, people can take being vigilant too far, but so can authorized police.

      Even with a modern police force they need all the help they can get.

      A few

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      This kind of behavior, however well-intentioned, harms those efforts and undermines the entire system of justice.

      I seem to remember that you're European; there is little justice in the US. I made friends with a young cab driver about twenty years ago, and he was shot and killed in an attempted robbery. The man who shot him served two years in prison. Meanwhile, another friend's brother spent five years in prison for loaning a drug dealer $1000.

      My home was burglarized once, and the burglar was caught. Not on

      • by Shakrai (717556)

        Why don't you move if you don't consider the United States a "civilized country"?

        BTW, I've read your journals. This may sound harsh, but do you suppose the fact that your house was broken into has anything to do with the type of company that you keep?

    • by fm6 (162816)

      Newspapers have always reported crimes. Yes, it can encourage vigilantism, but that's outweighed by the benefits of a well informed public. That's how a free society works: you don't limit access to information anymore than you have to. The public will often misuse that information, of course. That's an argument from A less free society, but we all know how that works out.

      I don't think the WaPo was concerned about vigilantism when they decided not to crowdsource the map. The obvious issue is all the un

    • by imidan (559239)

      I don't think that it's clear that this is vigilantism, at all. What Downs has done is designed a multimedia interface to a series of newspaper articles in the Washington Post. It looks like she's essentially put the existing information into an effective presentation format: across the top, the attacks are organized by time, and you can click on one to get a summary, some detailed info broken out, and a map and a photo. It's a fancy, interactive infographic: The Washington Post page with the flash app o [washingtonpost.com]

    • by billcopc (196330)

      That's real nice, and in an ideal world I would agree with you, but the reality is that the so-called "authorities" have clearly failed to deal with this particularly troubled individual.

      And the whole volunteer thing ? Puh-leeze. When even clean law-abiding citizens have lost faith in their local police, why in the fuck would they volunteer to do their job for them ? I'm not saying all cops are crooked, but I am saying the system itself is broken and in most of the cities I've lived, they're little more

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by syousef (465911)

      Tracking people in this fashion is unethical, even if it is a rapist. Leave it to the authorities -- this is vigilantism, nothing more.

      In the absence of an effective and well staffed police force what you're advocating is that people do nothing.

      And that's not something that we can tolerate in an information-saturated society.

      Yes it is. We can tolerate private detectives and have for a long time. We can tolerate the citizenry being involved in policing. (Ever heard of a citizen's arrest?). What we can't tolerate is people ignoring the law then they track the person down, or once they've found the person. Collecting information intelligently and presenting it to the police is to be commended not condemned. Furthermore we'

    • Tracking people in this fashion is unethical, even if it is a rapist. Leave it to the authorities -- this is vigilantism, nothing more. And that's not something that we can tolerate in an information-saturated society. Anytime a person is tracked electronically like this by someone with a personal agenda, it's wrong. There should not be exceptions, because the moment we allow that line to be crossed, we damn all of us to the potential to have our privacy invaded under false pretext.

      You want to help? Volunteer your services to a responsible authority like the local police. Work with them and follow their ethical guidelines. Believe me, they want citizens to come to them and the system functions best when done under professional and ethical oversight by a disinterested party. This kind of behavior, however well-intentioned, harms those efforts and undermines the entire system of justice.

      If this tracking system actually helps to catch the rapist, it will be objectively ethical based on the actual results of the experiment. You can only measure whether something is ethical or not based on the outcome. I hope the rapist is captured and handled appropriately so that it is ethical. And if there is DNA evidence and multiple individuals coming forward thats enough to track the person.

    • Tracking people in this fashion is unethical, even if it is a rapist. Leave it to the authorities --

      If you can prove the rapist actually is a rapist, and if you have physical and material evidence, a trail of victims you personally know, this is reason enough to start investigating on your own. Community policing is not new, and it's really the only method known to catch rapists. Got a better idea?

      this is vigilantism, nothing more. And that's not something that we can tolerate in an information-saturated society. Anytime a person is tracked electronically like this by someone with a personal agenda, it's wrong. There should not be exceptions, because the moment we allow that line to be crossed, we damn all of us to the potential to have our privacy invaded under false pretext.

      Privacy is dead. This sort of stuff already is happening under false pretexting to millions of people. The only way to stop it is to counter it with investigations into the "victims" to find out if they are lyin

  • Package it as a product that detectives could use with their cases, have it tie into a database warehouse/backend with existing data. Sometimes a bit of data visualization goes a long way.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by zero0ne (1309517)

      I imagine they already do this...

      You know those license plate scanners the police cars have now? I can guarantee those things are going in a database as such:

      [License plate ID][Time & Day of scan][GPS coordinates]

      They could then go and use that data to prove or disprove you were or weren't in a certain area at a certain time.

      Hell with enough of that data, they could probably generate reports of your driving habits.

      • by lwsimon (724555)

        As a libertarian, this scares the hell out of me.

        As a process improvement professional, this sounds like a damned cool thing to have access to!

        • As a libertarian (Score:3, Insightful)

          by elucido (870205)

          As a libertarian, this scares the hell out of me.

          As a process improvement professional, this sounds like a damned cool thing to have access to!

          Libertarian isn't the same as "anarchist". Libertarian means you want to maximize liberty for people who don't harm anyone. The legalize drugs, prostitute, line of thinking is not the same as thinking rape or violence crime should be legal.

          The best we can do as libertarians is design technology which promotes freedom for the user.

  • What I've notice reading the additional details they've found on this guy. It appears that he like to take a sh*t at he crime scene. Maybe DC correctional need to go back and look at some parolees files and see which one of these guys like to leave feces as calling card that could narrow things a bit.

  • There was a Slashdot story [slashdot.org] not so long ago related to this issue.

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